I am an idiot with sensitive skin.
July 7, 2014 8:59 PM   Subscribe

It took me years to figure this out, but I'm allergic to many common ingredients in soaps and lotions. If I stray away from using my approved short list of hypoallergenic soaps anywhere on my body, the most sensitive, NSFW, TMI part of my body suffers. My dumb clueless self recently used some body wash I'm allergic to. Help me figure out how to make everything normal again.

I didn't put the body wash ON my vulva! I ran out of my mild bar soap and just finished washing my lower legs with it! But anyway, my vulva and vagina are irritated and itchy, and there's burning and tiny bit of discharge, and I know from experience that this can last WEEKS until my body's ph rights itself, and I am so incredibly impatient. Please make suggestions for things I can do to alleviate the itching, or ideally just end this whole awful experience.

-It's an allergic reaction, not a fungal infection, BV, or STI...I've probably gone through this a hundred times before, and it set in immediately after the body wash incident. I recently got STI testing and multiple gyno exams, as well.

-Please shelve your yeast infection recommendations. Miconazole nitrate, the yogurt thing, the garlic thing...all have been attempted on earlier go-rounds, but it's not a fungal infection, so it's useless.

-My only coping mechanism so far is to leave it alone outside of basic daily water-only washing; predictably, if you take something itchy and irritate it farther by washing it and poking it and smearing it with creams constantly, it itches more. Obviously, there are a whole lot of things my partners and I want to do besides basic daily water-only washing, and the idea of waiting weeks makes me want to cry. Help!
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

If it's an allergic reaction, an oral antihistamine should help.
posted by tamitang at 9:10 PM on July 7, 2014

posted by spunweb at 9:13 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the extreme case, go to your doctor for a shot of cortisone.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:14 PM on July 7, 2014

The thing that fixed that kind of reaction there for me was a combination nystatin/triamcinolone steroid ointment, but alas, it is prescription-only. It was amazing back when I needed it, when I kept getting major irritation and hadn't yet been diagnosed with a formaldehyde allergy. (Like you, I went through seemingly a million rounds of trying those other remedies, including an 18-day course of Diflucan at one point, to no avail.)

But yeah, try an Allegra in the morning, in combination with over-the-counter Zantac (ranitidine). That combo blocks two histamine receptors at once, for extra itch-fighting. I highly recommend it (and so does my allergist).

For the future: You should really go to a dermatologist and an allergist, if you can, and get their respective patch and prick tests. You need to find out what ingredients, specifically, are the issue. Formaldehyde resin and/or formaldehyde-releasing products are in everything, for instance, so they can be really hard to avoid. By the time I got tested, I was covered in bruises from scratching (and had already dealt with issues in the area you describe a few years before). My life is so much better now that I know what makes me itch, so I can mostly avoid it.
posted by limeonaire at 9:19 PM on July 7, 2014

You might try Nature's Plus Natural Beauty Cleaning Bar to help put things back into balance. It has a low pH. I've found it at Vitamin Shoppe, but it's on Amazon, etc., too.

The scent is a little... brisk... at first! But that fades.
posted by mochapickle at 9:25 PM on July 7, 2014

Rephresh is allegedly a miracle worker for getting your ph back in line.
posted by k8t at 9:30 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would do the antihistamine for sure - anything will work right now, benadryl will at least probably knock you out for the night, and then something a little more powerful tomorrow.

You might get some relief from coconut oil, strictly as a moisturizer. I use it to soothe chafing from pads.

And then hie thee to a dermatologist asap. Maybe your GP, if you can't get in fast enough to a derm.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:35 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try taking probiotics. They will help you get to the right ph faster. Go ahead and do the big, cleansing dose (this may also help with your sensitive skin issues) and while you are at it, cut back on all sugar, wheat, and yeast.

You may also want to get a shower head with a water filter. My children and I were all suffering from sensitive skin until I switched to filtered water. I still have issues but their problems were resolved.

And I'm sure you already know this, but, just in case, cotton panties only, washed in mild detergent, and no tight jeans.
posted by myselfasme at 10:52 PM on July 7, 2014

Consider ibuprofen and cool damp compresses in addition to the antihistamines. (Drink extra water when you take antihistamines or they'll dry you out, leaving your poor inflamed mucous membranes in even worse shape.)
posted by gingerest at 12:23 AM on July 8, 2014

This has got to be awful for you!! I very strongly suggest that you find a handcrafted soapmaker and get some Castile soap. Not the Dr. Bronners at the store but true 100% aged Castile. First 99.9% of store bought soap has detergent added. All body washed have detergents. A true Castile is just olive oil. The reason I suggest handcrafted vs dr bronners is because in order to properly harden a bar of pure Olive, it needs to cure for 6-12 months because of the properties of Olive. Otherwise it is super soft and squishy. While hardening the ph becomes lower than anything "younger". If you can find someone with a no scent no color no "essential oil" bar that is a year+ old (of mixed coconut, Olive, Palm, sunflower, apricot, etc) that is okay too. It's just harder to google. Good Castile is old by character.

I suspect that might have a a little burning upon initial uses just because of existing irritation. You at want to go with just water and wash you hair in the sink for a while first.

Don't use coconut oil for this. Contrary to the current popular "best thing ever" opinion, it is cool to slather but is actually drying to the skin by nature.

If you need me to find someone for you just inbox me. I can help on specifics.
posted by Snackpants at 6:31 AM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it's a pH thing, will it help to rinse with vinegar or baking soda in water (whichever is appropriate; I dunno the pH of your soap) to encourage it to head back in the right direction? (Vinegar does not sting undamaged skin, but you should try it in a tiny quantity if you go that route in case it hurts.)

Would using a lubricant help ease the symptoms in the meantime?

Wearing skirts/ dresses without underwear for a bit may help.
posted by metasarah at 6:31 AM on July 8, 2014

Allergic reactions can be helped to heal faster by consuming nutritional support for adrenals and thyroid.

What works for me:

For adrenals: real licorice, sea salt, wild yam extract, eating cooked yams.

For thyroid: coconut oil.

You can google up alternatives. There is more out there than what I can think of off the top of my head.
posted by Michele in California at 10:10 AM on July 8, 2014

Most products today are ridden with chemicals, even the so called natural products. Check on this site, it has extremely good information on what is safe to use -EWG Skindeep
posted by jellyjam at 12:34 PM on July 8, 2014

That soap that Smackpants is talking about above is the bomb. I buy it from soapmarketonline.com. The 100% olive oil soap is cut off a huge tabletop sized block (they used to have it in store physically in NJ and you could ask to have a piece of whatever size cut for you. Olive oil and 72% olive with other vegetable oils.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:42 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've gotten corticosteroid cream for contact dermatitis (although my eye lids were affected, not any 'personal' areas). It's prescription though, so you'd have to go to a dermatologist to get a script.
posted by jcrbuzz at 5:16 PM on July 8, 2014

Yikes. You have my sympathies. Take an antihistamine and try putting some coconut oil on the irritated skin. It will soothe the itching/burning and hydrate the skin, and it's totally safe to slather on in quantity.

I've also gotten allergic reactions on my eyelids (not fun!) and my eye doctor suggested putting Neutrogena dandruff shampoo on them and leaving it for a minute or two before washing it off. Really weird, since it totally wasn't fungus related, but it worked really well to take down the itch and swelling. Not sure how well that would work for you, maybe test a small bit before committing to the full monty, as it were.
posted by ananci at 12:32 AM on July 10, 2014

...try putting some coconut oil on the irritated skin. It will soothe the itching/burning and hydrate the skin, and it's totally safe to slather on in quantity.

Coconut oil is an MCT (medium chain triglyceride) and the body will absorb it directly and use it immediately without digesting it (breaking it down). Thus it is very helpful for some conditions because you can basically consume it by putting it on your skin and letting your body absorb it if your gut is a mess. This also means there can be unintended consequences as slathering it on in quantity can have a de facto high dosing type impact that you don't necessarily see with other things that the body cannot similarly readily absorb and promptly put to use as if you had taken it orally.

So: It is totally safe to slather on in quantity for some people. I love coconut oil but I have to limit my use of it as too much can cause severe diarrhea or promote vomiting. I know of other people who have used too much coconut oil and gotten the result of extreme horrifying diarrhea of the runs-out-the-diaper-and-gets-on-everything variety.

YMMV and probably will.

tldr: I am all for using coconut oil topically but you might want to be a little conservative as to how much to use until you have some idea of how your body reacts to it.
posted by Michele in California at 9:35 AM on July 10, 2014

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